We all know how important it is to maintain a safe and inviting environment for our self-storage customers and guests. But how do you achieve this in an organized manner while maintaining a strong peace of mind for facility staff as well? Here are 10 safety procedures every operator should put into practice at his facility.
1. Adhere to a Daily Checklist
All operators should create and use a daily checklist of tasks to ensure all is well prior to opening, throughout the day and again at closing. Include all the pertinent details of your property. The list can even be customized if you have more than one site. This will help set expectations for managers on what should be reviewed or inspected every day.
2. Review Camera Activity
Make sure no untoward activities occurred during any time you’ve been away. Most of us use a digital video recorder that only captures motion for recording. This is the preferred method and makes camera reviews fast and easy for managers.
3. Install a Panic Button
A panic button should be installed at the front desk and monitored by your security company. If someone were to threaten staff, employees can simply hit the button, silently alerting police or the security company. No one should try to be the hero. A panic button should be a standard part of the security installation at your stores. It can be used in any situation when the manager feels threatened.
Hopefully, your office also has a camera to record everything that happens. This will make it easier to capture criminals after the fact. One camera should face the front door, and the activity should be displayed on a flat-screen monitor in the office. This is part of the sizzle that attracts customers and motivates them to pay higher rent—technology at work! Plus, it makes thieves think twice before attempting criminal behavior.
4. Provide a Back Door for Safe Exit
A back door or other means of exiting the office should be included for staff safety purposes. It should be behind the desk and not visible to others. It works great when the employee breakroom is behind the wall that features the security monitors. Adding the camera system and recorders out of site also makes it easy for staff to access them.
5. Beware of Liability
When something unexpected happens, it’s imperative for staff to preserve the asset and safeguard themselves and their tenants. This could be placing orange cones around a sinkhole, adding caution tape near a fallen limb, notifying customers via e-mail that the property is inaccessible during a storm, placing tarps on a damaged roof or taking other precautionary measures.
You cannot just sit there and allow the weather or other conditions to deteriorate the facility and put staff and tenants in danger. Preparation is the key here. Maintaining necessary supplies, a vendor-contact list and a set of emergency procedures goes a long way to keeping everyone safe and preserving the property.
6. Consider Your Lighting and Fencing
There’s nothing more important to safety and customer satisfaction than great lighting throughout the site. Inspect your store’s night-time lighting at least monthly. Include the hallways, driveways, signage and other common areas in the inspection process. No one wants to be in the “_elf Storage Business” because the lights are out behind the “S.” Customers will pay higher rates for stores where the lighting makes them feel safe and comfortable.
In addition, inspect your fencing frequently to make sure there are no gaps, cuts or breaks around the perimeter of the store. If criminals know they can cut your fence and gain easy access because you don’t repair it in a timely manner, they’ll keep coming back. If they see you make constant and ongoing repairs or, better yet, improve the boundary protection, they’ll give up and go somewhere easier to access.
The same is true with graffiti. You must keep cleaning it up to get them to leave the area alone. Leaving graffiti intact clearly tells your customers and the community, “We have given up and don’t care about this.”
7. Maintain Cameras and Access-Control Systems
Nothing is more dangerous than a fake or non-performing camera or access system. Your cameras, keypads, monitors and intercoms must be kept in clean, functioning condition. Nothing is worse than a black screen on your office wall or a keypad or intercom system that doesn’t work. These are easy to repair. Your customers will simply go elsewhere if not offered adequate access control and monitoring. Great security is one of the things in which they pay extra.
8. Watch Your Cash Drawers
Here’s your new mantra: Close and balance daily and make a bank deposit. It’s acceptable to leave about $100 in your cash drawer at the end of each workday if it’s locked up or in a location known only to the manager or owner. The balance should be deposited daily. This prevents overexposure to the business from holding multiple days of deposits. If criminals know you keep a lot of cash on site, you’re inviting a break-in or robbery. This is just good business practice.
We’re a retail business, and this is standard operating procedure for all retailers. Can you imagine your local Walmart not forcing a close and balance daily? This keeps the honest man honest, prevents mistakes from being carried forward day after day, and makes for a clear-cut accounting of each day’s transactions. It also provides a reliable audit trail.
9. Conduct Fire-Prevention Programs and Annual Inspections
While inspecting your site, check the last inspection date on all fire extinguishers, areas in the shop or office that could be a fire hazard, sprinklers and smoke alarms. Out-of-date extinguishers, dead batteries in a smoke alarm or a malfunctioning alarm system can create a negligent situation if anything should ever happen.
10. Beware of Hazards
Safety for everyone involved in our stores is critical to good management and life safety all around. However, using onsite guard dogs, guns or knives is not the way to go. Today’s storage industry has come light years from the outmoded methods for keeping everyone safe. There are numerous access-control system providers that can assist you in adding the latest technology and systems to your property. Call one of them today and ask for a site inspection and recommendations.
The fact is customers will pay more for high-tech surroundings and expect rent increases when they witness these improvements. The payback in higher rents and happier customers and managers is worth the effort.
Anne Ballard is president of training, marketing and developmental services for Universal Storage Group and the founder of Universal Management Co. She's a former president and current board member of the Georgia Self Storage Association and has served on the national Self Storage Association’s board of directors. She has participated in the planning, design and operation of numerous storage facilities. For more information, call 770.801.1888; visit www.universalstoragegroup.com.